Commentary Magazine


Topic: Max

Iraq, One of the Great Achievements of This Administration?

I wanted to add my thoughts to those of Jen and Max, made in response to Vice President Biden’s claim that Iraq “could be one of the great achievements of this administration.”

Come again? This administration? Even for the Obama administration, this is a rather audacious claim. To begin with, “this administration” is comprised of people — most especially Messrs. Obama and Biden — who opposed the surge at every point, who said it would make things worse rather than better, and who would have given up on the Iraq war at the very time when things were beginning to turn around in our favor. [I have documented Obama and Biden’s records here and here.]

If Obama and Biden had had their way, they would have engineered an epic American military loss. They would have handed jihadists their most important victory ever. And in Iraq mass death, and quite probably genocide, would have followed.

It was also the previous administration, not the Obama administration, which is responsible for the Status of Forces agreement that is unwinding, in a responsible way, American involvement in Iraq.

More important, the success we’re experiencing in Iraq is due above all to the most remarkable fighting force in the world: the United States military; to commanders like David Petraeus, who implemented a new strategy when it was clear the old one was failing; and to the Iraqis themselves, who are taking impressive, if halting, steps toward self-government.

I’m pleased that the Obama administration, having been handed a situation in Iraq that on every front was getting better, has decided to embrace that success. But to claim they are responsible for it is a bit hard to take. It’s wonderful news if the town prostitute converts; but she should not immediately insist on being credited for the purity of her life or author a book on the virtues of modesty.

Before Biden and Obama claim credit for the success in Iraq, perhaps they can admit — in the honest, transparent, “new politics” way they had promised — that they were wrong. Perhaps they can admit to us how flawed their counsel on the surge was, how massive the damage would have been if we had followed their counsel, and what was at the root of their errors in judgment.

If we are going to have a discussion about Iraq, let’s make it an honest one.

It is quite a thing to behold — Obama and Biden incessantly blaming Bush for problems of their own making while at the same time claiming credit for things they opposed and Bush brought to pass. There is a through-the-looking-glass quality to all of this. Such things have a way of catching up to an administration, as we’re seeing day by day, poll by poll, and election by election.

I wanted to add my thoughts to those of Jen and Max, made in response to Vice President Biden’s claim that Iraq “could be one of the great achievements of this administration.”

Come again? This administration? Even for the Obama administration, this is a rather audacious claim. To begin with, “this administration” is comprised of people — most especially Messrs. Obama and Biden — who opposed the surge at every point, who said it would make things worse rather than better, and who would have given up on the Iraq war at the very time when things were beginning to turn around in our favor. [I have documented Obama and Biden’s records here and here.]

If Obama and Biden had had their way, they would have engineered an epic American military loss. They would have handed jihadists their most important victory ever. And in Iraq mass death, and quite probably genocide, would have followed.

It was also the previous administration, not the Obama administration, which is responsible for the Status of Forces agreement that is unwinding, in a responsible way, American involvement in Iraq.

More important, the success we’re experiencing in Iraq is due above all to the most remarkable fighting force in the world: the United States military; to commanders like David Petraeus, who implemented a new strategy when it was clear the old one was failing; and to the Iraqis themselves, who are taking impressive, if halting, steps toward self-government.

I’m pleased that the Obama administration, having been handed a situation in Iraq that on every front was getting better, has decided to embrace that success. But to claim they are responsible for it is a bit hard to take. It’s wonderful news if the town prostitute converts; but she should not immediately insist on being credited for the purity of her life or author a book on the virtues of modesty.

Before Biden and Obama claim credit for the success in Iraq, perhaps they can admit — in the honest, transparent, “new politics” way they had promised — that they were wrong. Perhaps they can admit to us how flawed their counsel on the surge was, how massive the damage would have been if we had followed their counsel, and what was at the root of their errors in judgment.

If we are going to have a discussion about Iraq, let’s make it an honest one.

It is quite a thing to behold — Obama and Biden incessantly blaming Bush for problems of their own making while at the same time claiming credit for things they opposed and Bush brought to pass. There is a through-the-looking-glass quality to all of this. Such things have a way of catching up to an administration, as we’re seeing day by day, poll by poll, and election by election.

Read Less

Obama’s Extraordinary Irresponsibility

I wanted to follow up on the comments by Jennifer and Max regarding President Obama’s seeming inability to make a decision on General McChrystal’s request for more troops in Afghanistan. To put things in context: the McChrystal report was sent to the Obama administration at the end of August. McChrystal was emphatic in his 66-page request: “Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) — while Afghan security capacity matures — risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.”

According to our commanding general in Afghanistan, then, we have a window of 12 months to regain the initiative or we risk losing the war. We are now approaching the middle of November — two and a half months after McChrystal’s request — and based on media reports, President Obama does not plan to accept any of the Afghanistan war options presented by his national-security team. If true — and I know from my time in the White House that what is reported sometimes reflects, rather than the thinking of the president,  the views of aides trying to influence a decision via public leaks  — this is both stunning and reckless. As one person pointed out to me, the same president who wants to ram through health-care legislation, despite the fact that we don’t face a health-care emergency, seems unable to settle on a hugely consequential, time-sensitive decision in the midst of a war.

I have not begrudged President Obama the time to carefully think through a decision on Afghanistan — but this is ridiculous. This issue should have been front and center for the administration the moment it was clear Obama won the presidency. He has already presented (in March) his “new” strategy for Afghanistan. The fact that he wants to revisit his decision may be understandable, except for the fact that his foot-dragging is now harming us. Sometimes presidents are forced to make decisions based on external events and pressing outside needs. “The public life of every political figure is a continual struggle to rescue an element of choice from the pressure of circumstance,” Henry Kissinger wrote in the first volume of his memoirs, White House Years. Governing the nation does not afford you the luxuries you have when conducting a college seminar.

President Obama not only needs to make a decision soon; once he does, assuming he does, we face the logistical challenges of getting the troops in place. Precious time has already been lost. If after all the time that’s been lost, Obama is now jettisoning all the options he has been presented with, including the McChrystal option, then what we are witnessing is extraordinarily irresponsible. Sometimes you can lose a war by not choosing. And that is the path we may well be on right now, if media reports are correct.

President Obama needs to get a grip on this process soon. Decisions need to be made and a war needs to be won.

I wanted to follow up on the comments by Jennifer and Max regarding President Obama’s seeming inability to make a decision on General McChrystal’s request for more troops in Afghanistan. To put things in context: the McChrystal report was sent to the Obama administration at the end of August. McChrystal was emphatic in his 66-page request: “Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) — while Afghan security capacity matures — risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.”

According to our commanding general in Afghanistan, then, we have a window of 12 months to regain the initiative or we risk losing the war. We are now approaching the middle of November — two and a half months after McChrystal’s request — and based on media reports, President Obama does not plan to accept any of the Afghanistan war options presented by his national-security team. If true — and I know from my time in the White House that what is reported sometimes reflects, rather than the thinking of the president,  the views of aides trying to influence a decision via public leaks  — this is both stunning and reckless. As one person pointed out to me, the same president who wants to ram through health-care legislation, despite the fact that we don’t face a health-care emergency, seems unable to settle on a hugely consequential, time-sensitive decision in the midst of a war.

I have not begrudged President Obama the time to carefully think through a decision on Afghanistan — but this is ridiculous. This issue should have been front and center for the administration the moment it was clear Obama won the presidency. He has already presented (in March) his “new” strategy for Afghanistan. The fact that he wants to revisit his decision may be understandable, except for the fact that his foot-dragging is now harming us. Sometimes presidents are forced to make decisions based on external events and pressing outside needs. “The public life of every political figure is a continual struggle to rescue an element of choice from the pressure of circumstance,” Henry Kissinger wrote in the first volume of his memoirs, White House Years. Governing the nation does not afford you the luxuries you have when conducting a college seminar.

President Obama not only needs to make a decision soon; once he does, assuming he does, we face the logistical challenges of getting the troops in place. Precious time has already been lost. If after all the time that’s been lost, Obama is now jettisoning all the options he has been presented with, including the McChrystal option, then what we are witnessing is extraordinarily irresponsible. Sometimes you can lose a war by not choosing. And that is the path we may well be on right now, if media reports are correct.

President Obama needs to get a grip on this process soon. Decisions need to be made and a war needs to be won.

Read Less




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